Annual General Meeting for the Year 2015-16


Annual General Meeting for the Year 2015-16


12 September 2016

Dear Member

Notice is hereby given that the 41st Annual General Meeting of members of Harpenden Choral Society will be held on Tuesday 27th September 2016 at the United Reformed Church Hall, Harpenden at 7.45pm.

Enclosed you will find the following documents:

  1. Agenda for the 41st Annual General Meeting
  2. Minutes of the 40th Annual General Meeting
  3. Treasurer’s Report and Accounts for season 2015-16
  4. Musical Director’s Report for season 2015-16
  5. Chairman’s Report for season 2015-16
  6. Calendar of dates for 2016-18

If you have any items that you wish to be included under Any Other Business please let me have details in writing or email by 20th September 2016. There will of course be the opportunity to ask questions during the meeting.

Yours faithfully

Gill Mourant

Chair *



Treasurer’s Report

A deficit of £1200 had been expected for this season but I am pleased to report that in fact a surplus of £957 was achieved. This was chiefly due to a generous grant of £2500 from our sponsor, the Williams Church Music Trust. In addition, we were awarded £1000 by Waitrose towards the cost of our 40th anniversary concert performed on 21 November 2015.

The last concert of the anniversary season was a celebratory performance of Elijah in the Alban Arena. The choice of venue, among other factors, carried an element of financial risk. The concert was, in fact, the most expensive ever performed by the Society (£9203) and incurred a record loss (£6288). Even so, we finished the financial year with total assets only £92 less than our assets at the end of the year 2014-15.

The accounts for the year ended 30th June 2016 are attached, which comprise the income and expenditure account, the balance sheet, and a table giving details of receipts and costs for the four concerts given in the 2015/16 season. The income and expenditure account itemises receipts and costs and compares the figures for this year with the previous year. It can be seen that income rose by £4112 (to £33,429) and expenditure also rose (to £32,472), so income again exceeded expenditure. Significant increases in income came from ticket sales (up by £3302, excluding the Waitrose award) and subscriptions (up by £1022).

Useful additions to our income again came from refreshment sales at rehearsals (£622) and the Christmas quiz (£306). In addition, £64 was donated via the ‘Easy Fund Raising’ scheme. Thanks are due to everyone involved in running, or contributing to, these fund raising activities. The ‘Bring & Sing’ gave a welcome boost of £208 to our funds.

Concert costs are of course the main item of expenditure and continue to rise. Costs for the two concerts with orchestra, excluding publicity, were £6010 for the November concert and £9023 for the June (Elijah) concert. Orchestral fees were £2955 and £5155 respectively.

The Christmas concert showed a surplus of only £23 and was the least profitable Christmas concert performed by the choir to date. A retiring collection raised £828 for Methodist Homes.

We finished the financial year with a surplus of £958, compared with an unusually high surplus of £3302 in 2014/15, and the Society’s assets remain at a very satisfactory level (£14,128).

I should like to thank David Young for his independent examination of the accounts.

R I Jones


August 2016

Chair’s Report, Season 2015-16

This time last year I was quite apprehensive about the many and varied challenges we faced going into our 40th anniversary season but everyone involved rose to them and we staged concerts which were very successful and, I hope, enjoyable for both performers and audiences.

John has highlighted in his report the nature of the musical challenges posed by individual items in the repertoire, but this season was also unusually demanding in having two concerts with multi-item programmes of great stylistic variety, a spring rehearsal schedule combining works for two concerts and a larger than usual number of rehearsal conductors: as a result the choir has had to be “on its toes” (literally in the case of Jamie Burton’s warm-up sessions!). Elijah, although more straightforward in these respects, presented its own challenges of stamina and rapid adjustment to an initially disconcerting acoustic.

That the choir was able to cope with these musical challenges is largely down to our Musical Director, John Andrews. It is a measure of how much he has developed the choir during his tenure that he felt confident to perform Elijah in such a large venue. His expertise, inspiration and confidence in us is always appreciated but was especially so this season in the final rehearsals for the spring concert when we were struggling to reach our usual standard of performance. John also continues to find excellent soloists for our concerts and this season led us and our visitors in a thoroughly enjoyable Bring and Sing of Fauré’s Requiem.

The expertise and professionalism of our accompanist, Vivien Powles, is always highly valued but particularly so this season for the way in which when she has had to adapt to the different rehearsal styles of the stand-in conductors and the increased workload involved in covering such a huge score for Elijah.

The season has also been challenging from an organisational point of view, and I’d like to thank the committee members, who have all put in even more work than usual, most of it behind the scenes.

Our ranks were swelled this year not only by new recruits from the Open Rehearsal in September but also by additional singers who joined us for Elijah. Our Membership Secretary, Marion Oxley, has therefore worked even harder than usual organising voice tests, helping new members to settle in and co-ordinating and supporting the Elijah extras, but this has paid off in enticing some of the Elijah singers to join us on a permanent basis.

HCS could not function successfully without the help of the many volunteers who are not on the committee. I’d like to thank our Section Leaders, some of whom have been doing the job for many years and whose role becomes more important as the size of the choir increases. Thanks also to Janet Gilfrin for looking after the Friends of HCS (again over many years) and the many people who have helped with front of house and refreshments at our concerts and the Bring and Sing.

Diane Davies and Heather Wright have excelled themselves this year on Publicity; it’s thanks to their hard work and creative thinking that we’ve had larger audiences than we expected for all our concerts this season. Bigger and varied concerts have also necessitated longer programmes, and therefore more work for Michael Walker writing the notes and Petra Gamble doing the programme editing. As Stage Manager, David Nye has played a big part in the success of our concerts, particularly in organising the staging in St Nicholas Church and in liaising so effectively with the technical staff at the Alban Arena.

I’m indebted to Chris Oxley for his support throughout the year and for running this AGM. Chris and his wife Marion have also continued to provide invaluable help greeting our concert audiences and providing refreshments for our soloists, which relieves a lot of the pressure from choir members on concert day.

Particular thanks go to Julie Mulley and Tony Oliver this year for putting in a huge amount of work to get our new website up and running. The most difficult work is now done but going forward we need someone to keep the website up-to-date, as Julie’s work commitments mean that she may not always have time to do this. We are therefore looking for a volunteer to shadow Julie and Tony until feeling confident to take on the role of Website Administrator.

My thanks go too to Jo Morris for her many years organising the tuning of the rehearsal piano during the summer holidays. Jo would like to step down from this but has written comprehensive instructions for her successor, so please let me know if you would like to volunteer.

One more volunteer is needed, but in this case for a committee role. Tony would like to step down as Librarian this time next year but his successor would benefit from shadowing him throughout a whole season, so we are appealing for someone to come forward now. Please feel free to talk to Tony, without any obligation, if you would like to find out more about the role.

We will be performing our spring concert with Stevenage Choral Society at the Coptic Church in Stevenage, with John conducting the Vaughan-Williams Sea Symphony, and will therefore put on hold for another year discussion of possibilities for a choir tour, but if you have any ideas in the meantime please pass them on to the committee.

Finally, my warm thanks to all of you for your support for the Society and your enthusiasm for singing. I’m looking forward to a new season, with hopefully fewer organisational challenges than the last but at least as much enjoyment in rehearsals and concerts!

Gill Mourant

September 2016



Harpenden Choral Society; Music Director’s Report 2015-16

2015-6 being the Choir’s 40th Anniversary, this was a very special season, with challenging and ambitious repertoire spanning nearly 500 years.

The season began with the anniversary concert proper: a mixture of popular favourites mostly celebratory in tone. The most challenging by far was Bach’s intricate and energetic Magnificat. Its speed and chromaticism and relative unfamiliarity took more work than anticipated, but the result was strong. Popular classics such as I was Glad, Vivaldi’s Gloria and the contrasting sustained sonorities of Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditsye Dyevo went down very well indeed. Soloists Fflur Wyn, Rosie Braddy, Norbert Meyn and Andrew Mahon were on fine form, and Catt Darby was a suitably ethereal Blue Bird. The Kings Sinfonietta and Roger Carter provided idiomatic and sensitive accompaniment. The choir coped well with the diversity of styles from the rich nineteenth-century textures of Parry and Stanford to the intricacies of the Baroque. Special thanks are due to Kelvin Lim and Debbie Miles-Johnson for covering my absence in Germany during the first part of term.

After such a demanding sing, the Christmas Concert was deliberately more relaxed with a good selection of old favourites which allowed the choir to focus on diction, projection and phrasing in familiar repertoire. This was complimented by solo numbers from James Cleverton, including excerpts from Elijah and Messiah and a rousing rendition of The Holy City.

In the Easter term we commemorated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a concert of music from his own time, and from pieces inspired by his plays. The biggest challenges came for the oldest and newest works on the programme. Tallis’ Salvator Mundi’s split (very low) alto line caused difficulties in rehearsal, but was conquered after some intense work. Some of the harmonic challenge of the Vaughan-Williams’ 3 Shakespeare Songs proved insuperable in the time we had, and so discreet accompaniment was added. The madrigals tended to sink in pitch in the concert much more than in rehearsal but this was mostly sorted in the afternoon rehearsal. Facing these challenges, particularly with a smaller than usual choir (fewer than 20 altos), really focused concentration and the diction, and sound and phrasing was really very impressive. Charmian Bedford delivered songs from the 17th and 19th century with grace and charm, with wonderful support from Lynda Sayce and Vivien Powles respectively.

The season ended with the first major piece the society sang 40 years ago. Mendelssohn’s Elijah is (even with discreet cuts) a big, big, beast. Whilst none of the numbers is particularly difficult in itself, the sheer volume of the music (in both senses) represents a serious physical and musical challenge. With support from guest singers in the larger and potentially daunting Alban Arena, the choir made a hugely impressive sound, with some really incisive singing and sharp diction. There were minor slips just after the interval, but more I suspect to do with fatigue than anything. The soloists, Sarah Redgwick, Debbie Miles-Johnson (doubling as balance-monitor), Nick Ransley and Simon Thorpe were uniformly excellent, and Catt Darby equally impressive as the boy. With an enlarged Kings Sinfonietta this was a fine way to end the season and the first 40 years. It is not a piece I would have contemplated programming 10 years ago.

Finally, important thanks to Vivien for her marvellous playing, listening, and singing.


Minutes of the 40th Annual General Meeting
Held on Tuesday 29 September 2015 at the United Reformed Church Hall, Harpenden

The Meeting opened at 7.45pm.

The President of the Society, Alderman Chris Oxley, opened the AGM by welcoming all those present.  He thanked the choir, together with John Andrews, Gill Mourant and the committee, for a season of superb performances and noted the choir’s continuing improvement.

1    Apologies were received from Ann Roach, Anne Pringle Davies, Scilla Cullen, David Nye, Margaret Charlston and John Andrews.
2   Minutes of previous meeting
The minutes of the meeting held on 23 September 2014 were approved unanimously.
3   Matters arising
John Andrews is now providing feedback after each concert, circulated to choir members by email via Gill Mourant.
Chris Oxley said he has noticed an improvement in the number of choir members who watch the conductor during concerts.

4   Chair’s report
The Chair’s report was circulated with the AGM papers.
She wished to highlight her thanks to everyone who has helped over the past year and said what a pleasure it has been working with the current committee.
She mentioned that two members had offered to help manage the new website after appealing for a new website administrator.
She highlighted two forthcoming concerts in particular; the 40th Anniversary Concert on
21 November and the performance of Elijah in the Alban Arena on 18 June 2016.
The choir is getting larger, as well as the audiences, and we need to consider the possibility of using larger venues for concerts.  The Chair asked that ideas for alternative venues should be sent to her for future consideration by the committee.  Ideas proposed at the meeting included the Grove Theatre in Dunstable, local secondary schools and Rothamsted Manor.  Andrew Baillie commented that we need to be aware of sound difficulties that can sometimes arise with stages that have a proscenium arch.

5   Musical Director’s report
The Musical Director’s report was circulated with the AGM papers.

6   Treasurer’s report
The Treasurer’s report was circulated with the AGM papers.
Bob Jones reported that we have had a good year musically and a very good year financially, with a £3,209 profit at the year end.  There were a number of reasons for this:
we had kept concert costs down;
the Williams Music Trust grant had been generous this year (it varies from year to year);
an increase in subscriptions of £1000 due to our increased membership;
£654 raised through rehearsal refreshments (thanks to all involved);
£292 raised through the Christmas Quiz (thanks to Marion Oxley);
and money raised through Easy Fundraising.
The Treasurer appealed to members to consider using the Easy fundraising scheme more extensively and to consider also a ‘Give as you Live’ scheme, in conjunction with Sainsburys, where a weekly shop of £50 per week could generate £100 income for the choir.  Further details from Bob Jones (
The choir’s assets stand at £14,200.
Questions were invited.  Andrew Baillie asked if the Williams Trust asks to see our end of year accounts and Bob Jones confirmed that they ask to see our accounts and our budget for the forthcoming year.
The President mentioned that Mr. Williams, who started the Trust, was organist at the Methodist Church.  His son is also connected with the church, and this should be considered if we are thinking of changing venues for future concerts.
In view of our healthy finances the Treasurer reported that the committee had decided to keep the annual subscription at the same level as last year, £155 per annum. He appealed for members who have not already done so to gift aid the membership portion of the subscription (£138).  £27 of the subscription is a tuition fee and therefore not eligible for gift aid.

7   Vote of thanks to the Independent Examiner
Bob Jones thanked David Young for his work in acting as independent examiner for the last decade.

8   Election of the Independent Examiner

Bob Jones reported that David Young was happy to stand again as the Choir’s independent examiner.  Proposed by Bob Jones, seconded by Tony Weatherhead, agreed unanimously.

9   Any other business
There was no other business.

The Meeting closed 8.05pm.